What story are you trying to tell?
My university lecturer once asked me during a discussion about branding: 'what story are you trying to tell? I didn't have an answer at the time, but I was inspired to find one. My search led ultimately to my 10,000-word dissertation on the relationship between storytelling and branding.
During the course of my research, I came across a number of interesting books; two that immediately spring to mind are Creative Leaps by Saatchi and Saatchi's Michael Newman and Steve Denning's The Leaders Guide to Storytelling. Both these books illustrate the importance of storytelling as a powerful communication tool, especially in relation to branding. My dissertation distilled a number of messages which have stayed with me and have inspired my work with The Storytellers:
There’s no better recognition than ‘word of mouth’. Employees must believe and ‘own’ the story as they will ultimately be the ones to represent the company's brand values.
Brands communicate a story about a product or service. Successful advertising delivers meaningful messages about the brand, often in sequence, taking the message’s recipients on a journey.
The importance of flux. There is a constant need to adapt a story in a fast-paced society where change is inevitable. A brand must therefore evolve with its consumers or it will fail to build lasting relationships.
Brand characters and personalities can be effective at building relationships between a brand and an audience. A successful brand character can adopt human qualities that allow it to engage with an audience on an emotional level. For me good examples of this include: Kelloggs Rice Krispies' Snap, Crackle and Pop, the Jolly Green Giant and the Compare the Market Meerkats.
At The Storytellers, we recently invented a character (a 4-foot puppet) to represent a client company's brand values. It was a way of connecting the employees to the journey of the company. The puppet played the leading role in the story. His personality was an important vehicle which we used to reflect the views of the company and its employees, and to bring together individuals who aspire to achieve the same goals.
It's an approach celebrated recently in J Walter Thompson's work at brandtoys.com; visualisations of brand personalities for over 3,000 global brands. Every toy is measured by its characteristics and qualities. The concept is based on user experience. It's a great way to compare brands and see how they differ around the world and against competitors.
I hope we get the opportunity to invent more characters, to tell more stories, to add more value to client brands by helping them build lasting and profitable relationships with both internal and external audiences.